Trail Summer

Hello everyone! It’s time to dust this thing off before we get into the woods.

This week was our opportunity to help the local Washington Trails Association chapter fix some erosion and drainage issues on a trail. The hope was for the trail to endure many more seasons before we would have to touch it up. Locally, we had a long, hard winter. Two months of record-setting rainfall served as bookends to a winter of top-5 recorded snowfall. That meant five months of moisture running across this trail, quickly built last fall to replace a social trail following an old lumber skid road that went straight up the hill.

Here’s Goddess repairing the back slope after the rain and snow melt pushed dirt down and across the trail. That narrows the trail, which leads to other problems later. So it’s best to clear the dirt and keep the trail wide.

Two days later I was back, finishing some drainage issues that I couldn’t finish the other day, then helped reroute more of the trail to give it better drainage. To be sure, the building of new trail is significantly harder than repairing existing trail. One tree is still upright in the middle of the new tread, closely guarding its roots from our digging, prying, and cutting. But the next crew will clear it, I have no doubt.

So this week was a great opportunity to dust off the cobwebs and get the brain rethinking how gravity works and water flows. All in all, a good warm-up to a summer of trail work throughout the region.

White Sands Moonset

We’ve been quite busy here at the homestead.

But not so busy that I couldn’t chisel out some time to catch opening day, a powder day, at one of the local ski resorts. Less than an hour, door to door. A brilliant day of rediscovering my boarding legs for the season.

This isn’t a picture of that day.

Moonset, White Sands National Monument

Hopefully the last weeks of autumn (for those of us here in the Northern Hemisphere) are treating you well.

Joshua Tree Cinema

Panamint Range, Inyo County, California

Moments after this, a pair of US Navy F-18 jets flew just a couple of hundred feet above us, banking hard enough that we could see the pilots in the cockpits.  We couldn’t hear, nor see them coming, although the first one gave it away.

Playing with a cinematic crop, which gives these landscapes quite a different look, a depth that the regular frame doesn’t provide.

Gimmicky?

Perhaps.

But still fun.

Pilot Cumulus

A flashback to a day last spring.

Goddess and I were sitting with a friend on a bluff overlooking the Rogue Valley in southern Oregon, watching the rain showers roll past.

There are five climbers silhouetted on the summit of Pilot Rock that are only visible in the original image.  Discovering them made me smile, thinking of another day a couple of years ago where we made that same climb with friends.

Packing

The packing continues.

We got the entire house packed, cleaned and handed over the other day. We wanted to spend yesterday napping, but there is still plenty to do.

It doesn’t help that, thanks to a shipping snafu, that we are still waiting on delivery of about 120 meals worth of dehydrated vegetables and protein.

Here’s our hotel room right now. I suspect the housekeeping staff is shaking their heads every time they walk past the open door.

image

It’s a last minute sanity check, as we have realized that some important items are now somewhere in the storage unit. No show-stoppers, but things we will need to find (not likely right now) or replace.

Once this is done, on to the last minute packing of meals as tracking tells us that the food shipment is in town as of yesterday, but apparently too far from the mailbox to pick up.

The adventure begins and continues.

Whale Shark

Our home for the summer received a quality control shakedown after being created this week.

Gen Shimizu, the genius behind Yama Mountain Gear, posted a pic and asked if it looked like a shark.

It does.  A Whale Shark.

Does anyone else see a shark? #yamamountaingear #swiftlinetent

A post shared by YAMA Mountain Gear (@yamamountaingear) on

At 36.5oz actual weight, I’ll barely notice it in my pack.  But we will both enjoy this Yama Mountain Gear Swiftline 2-person tent on those wet and windy nights.

 

PCT – Trail Maintenance

In case you weren’t out traveling earlier this month and missed getting a copy of USA Today slid under your room door, there was an interesting article on the state of the National Forest Trail system, which is pretty dismal.

Here’s the article.

One thing you’ll notice in the article is the increasing reliance on volunteers to maintain the trails.

We’re eager volunteers.  Personally, I enjoy the excuse to get out into the wilderness and do some work.  The crew members are great and everyone’s excited to be there to work.

Plus, for me it’s a chance to see new areas and scout out where I’d like to return to shoot photos.  Like this one.

For me, it’s a win-win.

As much as we’d like for the work to get done on its own, just through the love and dedication of the volunteers, it can’t.  For many of the volunteers, they sure wish it could, but it can’t.

So please consider donating to the Pacific Crest Trail Association (PCTA), the non-profit organization responsible for the trail-work coordination and execution, as well as the protection of the trail corridor.

The PCTA is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, meaning that your donation may be tax deductible on your taxes next year (sorry, if you were looking for an angle on the forms you’re doing now, that ship sailed two months ago).

We are 1/4th of the way to our goal!  Would you please help maintain the trail that Jennifer and I will be walking this year?  Your help will ensure that the trail is available for hikers in the future too.

Please click on the picture of Jennifer and Skinny on the PCT below to lend a hand.

Thank you,

Bill & Jennifer Anders

Jen n Skinny Deadfall

 

 

 

PCT Pacing

In the last post covering PCT Planning, I mentioned a 20 mile-per-day (mpd) average needed for us to get to Canada by the end of September.  Hopefully before the snow starts falling.

Twenty miles a day?  Walking?  On purpose?

Gotcha.

But remember, that’s the average.  Half of the hike will be below, half will be above.

We’re going to stick with the ultra-marathon mantra of “start out slow, throttle back”.  In other words, we intend on being tortoises.

We’ll start our hike about 10 days earlier than the traditional start of the PCT hiking season, which coincides with an event called the Annual Day Zero Pacific Crest Trail Kick Off (ADZPCTKO).  The ADZPCTKO is, in a nutshell, a camping weekend where hikers can meet other hikers, get advice on their equipment, buy what they need and get the latest trail, water and snow conditions for the trail before they head out.

[I actually typed “buy what they don’t need”.  Freudian slip, anyone?]

The location of the ADZPCTKO is the Lake Morena campground at PCT mile 20.  A lot of folks will do that 20 miles in their first day.

Goddess and I will not.

We’ll take two days to get to that campsite, a week before the masses.  We’ll keep moving at a 10 mpd average pace for the next couple of weeks.

There are downsides to moving so slowly.  We’ll have to carry more water between watering holes (literally) in the desert.  We’ll have to carry more food between resupply points.  But we’ll be giving our feet and our bodies frequent breaks during the day, giving everything a chance to settle into the task.

A typical day early in the hike might look like this – wake up early and get on the trail around sunrise.  Walk for a couple of hours until mid- to late-morning when it starts to get hot (it will be the desert, y’know).  Find or create shade, have lunch, take a siesta and wait until late afternoon.  Then get a couple of more hours on the trail in the late afternoon/early evening before setting up camp for the night.

A lot of folks will try to get in 20 mile days, day after day, right from the start.  Some of those will soon start to deal with incessant blisters and/or bio-mechanical issues.  Quite a few of those will stop at Warner Springs, just 110 miles into the hike, deal with their injuries and never continue.

That’s not something we want to experience.

We’ll get to Warner Springs as the ADZPCTKO is in full-swing and we’ll likely continue north.  Although we’re still discussing the possibility of hitching a ride back down to the event.  We’ll have time.

If we continue along the trail, the fast hikers will catch up to us within a few days.  Soon the trickle of hikers will become a steady stream as the faster ones catch and pass us.

But we still won’t be in a hurry.

By the time we get to Kennedy Meadows, the traditional start of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, we’ll be up to a whopping 12 mpd average.  And we’ll still get to Kennedy Meadows about a week earlier than the traditional 15 June date.  In a typical year, departing Kennedy Meadows earlier than 15 June means dealing with a lot of snow at elevation, while departing Kennedy Meadows after 15 June means an easier time as the snow melts quickly.

Mind you, that average takes into consideration days off.  In thru-hiker parlance, a day off is a “Zero Day”, meaning no miles are hiked.  Often taken in a town, a zero day can also be taken on the trail, but that requires additional food and water for that segment of the trail.

Another option is what is called a “Nearo Day”.  Instead of no miles hiked, a hiker can camp a few miles outside of a town, wake up, hike into town and take care of whatever resupply and other chores are required, then hike out of town a few miles to camp for the night.

The advantage to a Nearo is not paying for a hotel room.  Handy when you’re trying to save money on the trail, but not so much if it has been 7-10 days (or more) since the last shower or hiker bath in a large body of water.  Even your fellow hikers might start to say something about that.

So while the average is 12 mpd, we’ll slowly build up our daily pace to accommodate those off and shorter days.

The next 400 miles through the Sierra Nevada Mountains will be slow going as we have to work over several high elevation passes and across streams swollen with snow melt.  After that, it’s time to get serious about making miles.

Through Northern California and Oregon, it’s likely that we’ll be covering 25 mpd, many days covering 30+ miles.  It sounds like a lot, but when you consider that by the time we enter Northern California we’ll have had over 1,100 miles in our legs over three months, we’ll be up to the task.

Not to mention time.  We’ll enter Northern California in early July, a few weeks after the summer solstice.  The days will be long (~15 hours of daylight).  We’ll be comfortably walking 12-14 hours each day at a slower than normal walking pace of 2.5 mph.  That gets us over 30 miles each day if we want or need to push that hard.

Once we get into Washington, the terrain becomes a bit more demanding again and our daily pace will slow down a bit.  But at that point, we’re five months into our long walk and have the finish in our grasp.  Excitement and motivation will help overcome any terrain and weather (rain) that we have to deal with.

And that, in a nutshell, is how we average 20 miles per day on this long walk.

But that sure is a lot of words.  Perhaps this will help with the understanding of the motivation:

 

Lint Shakedown

No, not the accumulation of fluffy fibers.

Lint doesn’t sit still long enough for that.

Lint is a rock star in the thru-hiking world.  In the last 11 years, he has completed 11 thru-hikes, including twice earning Triple Crown status, which means that he has thru-hiked the Pacific Crest Trail, the Continental Divide Trail and the Appalachian Trail.  That’s enough of an achievement for most people.  He’s done that twice and is only one trail (Continental Divide Trail) away from earning his third Triple Crown.

The man lives to thru-hike.

Anyway, we found out that he lives right around the corner from us and was willing to get together to look at what we have and give us suggestions.

We were excited about his offer.

Although probably only half as excited as he was.

He and his girlfriend came over and walked into a living room with Jennifer’s gear spread out on the floor.  Lint got right to it, telling us tales of the trail, looking over what we had, giving suggestions and ideas on what equipment we do have and what we’re looking to purchase.

His girlfriend is a relatively newer hiker and she still had plenty of advice, including ideas for Jennifer that Lint couldn’t provide.

It was a fantastic two hours where we learned a lot.  And it reinforced many of the things that we had read about and planned for.

So what was the equipment layout like?  Here’s mine:

Other than a few small items, that’s it.  Well, except for what I was wearing, which, for the most part is what I’ll be wearing on the trail.  Although the red blanket will not be going.  That was just to lay out the gear.

Oh, and the tent.  We don’t have our tent from Yama Mountain Gear yet, but it won’t take up much space at all.  Gen is working very hard getting everything in line for our sponsorship, not to mention coming up with great new tent designs like the brand-new ultralight Swiftline 2-person tent.

From left to right:

  • Backpack – Gossamer Gear Mariposa
  • Electronics – Phone, Headlamp, SPOT GPS Satellite Messenger
  • Sleeping Bag – Big Agnes Lost Ranger 15° Mummy Bag
  • Sleeping Pad – Thermarest NeoAir Xlite
  • Bear Canister in the back (only carried for a few hundred miles in the Sierra Nevada Mountains where it’s required)
  • Kitchen – folding bowl, titanium long-handled spoon, flint lighter, ultra-light camp stove (thanks Mom!)
  • Hydration – Platypus 2L hydration pack (not shown, 2 2L collapsible water bottles)
  • Additional items to be worn – Sun Hat, reflective umbrella (great sun protection), gaiters to keep sand and rocks out of the shoes, extra socks, glasses
  • Extra clothes in the pack – rain jacket, down jacket, extra underwear, sleep socks (helps keep the sleeping bag clean), long underwear, extra hiking socks, neck gaiter and wool beanie.
  • Paper maps and guide book – the maps will be separated into sections and the book will be dismantled so that the appropriate information is filed with those sections.  We won’t carry them all, instead mailing them to different pickup locations along the trail.

Like I said, that’s it for six months (worst case), save the few small items that we need to pick up.

Currently that puts me at just under 14lbs (6.3kg) for my base weight.  Yes, I could go lower, but that also means shelling out a lot of money to replace items that we already have.  So we’re good with what we have right now.

For comparison, Lint’s hiking with a base weight of just over 6lbs (2.7kg).  But getting into that realm of ultra-light hiking requires some experience and self-trust.

Perhaps we’ll get there one day.

It’s Friday.  Do you have any adventures planned?